Yesterday, I read The Lottery; a short fiction written by Shirley Jackson. The story portrays a society gathering to play a game of lottery. Children run around collecting stones for a drawing to take place to see which woman would be stoned. No trial, no guilty verdict, just a sentence of death. In the story, men stride in as the shepherds and women reluctantly join as sheep to the slaughter.
In the end, Tessie, a mother, and wife is stoned to death by her community. Even Dave, her son, is given small pebbles to throw at his own mother. While the story is set in an American village, the symbolism of women’s suffering is universal.
Jackson presents a patriarchal society, where men come first as they converse with each other, but don’t include women in their discussions. Similarly, in peace processes women are left out, even though they didn’t wage the war. However, the warlords, all men, are seated at the negotiation table.
Additionally, the men control the game. They are the owner of the black box. As such, no man is stoned, only women are subjected to such cruelty. Men control most of the legislative bodies around the world, thus, oftentimes they issue laws that fail to represent women’s interests. For example, the US Congress consists of 104 women out of the 535 members. Congresswomen constitute less than 20%. Thus, men are still in control of the “black box.”
Oftentimes, men reaction regarding women’s issues is cold and cruel. Thus, if a woman was raped, men ask what was “she wearing?” Thus, it is the woman’s fault. It took the western society decades to overcome the branding of “what was she wearing?” However, women’s issues are abbreviated to domestic violence, and breast cancer. Issues related to women in leadership positions are still unaddressed. In 2005, when I attended Harvard Kennedy School of Government, there were two women among faculty members.
Historically, the witch- hunt targeted all innovative women including midwives, healers, poets, musicians, and others. The process of identifying a witch is no difference than a lottery draw. Earlier women were sacrificed as offerings to the Gods; the Nile Bride was one of the most infamous sacrifices. A beautiful woman would be thrown into the Nile to drown as an offering so the Nile wouldn’t flood.
Similar to the reaction of the men in The Lottery, the men in these societies seemed to be at ease and in support of women’s suffering. The men cheered while women were burned alive at the stake. Whatever it was, witchcraft, the Nile flooding, or the lottery, it was the woman’s fault.
Nowadays, Saudi Arabia is the only country on earth that punishes women for witch crafting in the 21st century. Women fall victims to that law, men are not accused of sorcery. The punishment is beheading. The Saudi men are the executioners, and the rest of the world is watching. Stoning is the punishment for adultery. However, only women are punished. Men are exempt because they can be with as many women as they can. Similarly, in Iran, only women are stoned, because only women are at default. Men are always right.
Throughout the entire region of the Middle East, a male relative is allowed to kill a woman if he suspects that she is dating someone, it is called “honor killing.” Many men use this legal loophole to put their hands on the woman’s inheritance. The man walks scot free after hitting the “jackpot.” The same laws sanction women with the death penalty if she killed her husband while catching him on the act of cheating on her. Thus, a man can defend his honor while a woman can’t. Similarly, Tessie, the woman who was stoned in The Lottery, can’t defend her honor of being innocent. She isn’t entitled to that right, just like women in the Middle East aren’t entitled to defend their honor.
We, the human race, like to believe that we are fair to each other and have come a long way to achieving equality. However, the human race still fails to acknowledge and remedy women’s suffering.
We are living in the second millennium, yet the basic interests of women are still violated globally. The extent of violation may vary from one society to another, but the common denominator is the violation. The reality is that society is still playing The Lottery as parallel to Shirley Jackson’s story. The shocking waves experienced at the end of the story are facts, not fiction. The question remains: How can we stop the game?